“Listen, Learn and Return” at D303


courtesy of D303

D303 Superintendent Paul Gordon meets with community members during a listening session. Photo courtesy of D303

Anthony Herrera, Staff Writer

Effective July 1, 2022, Dr. Paul Gordon was instated as the Community Unit School District 303 Superintendent of Schools. With Dr. Gordon at the wheel, D303 began a new program called “Listen Learn Return.” Listen Learn Return, or ‘LLR.’

LLR consists of three parts: the community listening sessions, which have since concluded, the district then interprets the feedback collected from the listening

sessions, and finally, during the Return sessions set to take place in Winter 2023, they will share their findings with the community and determine the next steps for the district.

The community listening sessions consisted of a mixture of parents, former educators, students, and School Board members, including the President of the School Board.

The Listen Sessions spanned two weeks, with four individual sessions: two of the sessions were located at the Haines Center on August 31, another session on the 6 of September was located at Bell-Graham Elementary School, and the final session was located at St. Charles East High school in the Little Theater on September 8.

During each listening session, guests were seated with other community members at individual tables, where they were able to have discussions about the three main questions asked at each meeting: “What are the challenges facing the district?” “What opportunities are there for growth?” and “What are you most proud of within the District?”

The guests wrote down their responses to each question, discussed each other’s responses, and presented their table’s ideas to the whole group.

The guests then recorded their individual responses on charts located around the room.

Community responses ranged from concern about District transparency to student mental health; yet over-all most community feedback revolved around community engagement, standardized test scores, and equity.

During his reflection on the Listening sessions, Dr. Gordon described them as an “absolute success,” though later in the interview he also noted that “only [about] 140 people showed up out of [about] 8,500 families [in D303,]” which equates to only approximately 3% of residents in the district.

said, “It’s important for me to give people space to share your voice…feel heard, valued, and seen.”

Later when asked what the takeaways from the Listening sessions were, Dr. Gordon affirmed his belief that “our community does want to come together to have [these] conversations about education.”

Through these listening sessions the new superintendent hopes to improve community engagement, and furthermore education. “My ‘why’ is about helping students create any opportunity they want… truly opening any door they want to open,” said Dr. Gordon. His message to students is this: “I want them to know they can say whatever they want to say to me.”

With the winter sessions just beyond the horizon, the Su-perintendent hopes to encourage student feedback and feed student engagement in district activities.